Tech Talk: Is Google's Hardware Just Doomed To Fail?

Google's difficulties with its most recent Pixel handsets and other hardware could show a serious problem with the company and could potentially even be cause for concern about the relevance of the company. At least, that may be true from a public perception perspective. The search giant is, after all, responsible for the Android platform in no uncertain terms, despite that Android is ultimately an open-source piece of software. However, the company has also been steadily exerting somewhat more control over its OS over the past several years and has begun to enter the market with its own devices - with the intention of showing what is possible with the platform. More than that, the Pixel line is meant to be a guide for how to implement a harmonious partnership between bleeding edge hardware and software optimization. The problem is that the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, as well as several other devices, have failed at that in many regards. The resulting questions that are raised could slow down or bring an end to the momentum Google has built up over the past several years, possibly even having implications for the momentum of Android.

It could, of course, be argued that Android will maintain dominance regardless, thanks to the steady flow of new devices from Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, LG, Nokia, and several other globally dominant handset makers. That may not be too far from the truth, either, but Google's own efforts to lead the way are not without significance or consequence. Each new iteration of Android brings a multitude of changes and innovation but hardware manufacturers are not always able to implement those features effectively and sometimes choose not to implement them at all. That has, as mentioned above, historically the whole point to first the Nexus line of devices - overseen by Google - and now the Pixel range. Those devices and demand for newly announced Android features have led to OEMs inching closer and closer to stock Android over the OS's lifecycle. But Google's failings in creating its own hardware for its OS may make the company appear out of sync, internally, and out of date with the rest of the technology industry. Compounded with other failings in the hardware sector, it is in real danger of driving itself into obsolescence in the hardware sector. Each new failure knocks the company down a notch in the minds of consumers.

The problem here is not that Android will necessarily disappear as a result of Googles shortcomings in producing meaningfully advanced combinations of hardware and software. The ecosystem, including offshoots such as Google Assistant, is still outstripping competing operating systems in the mobile space and is making steady headway into other hardware platforms with few signs of slowing down. With that said, Google itself has faced controversy after controversy and the hardware the company has been putting out has not been without its own teething issues. The new Pixel 2 and, in particular, the Pixel 2 XL, is supposed to represent the best of the best for Android. Screen and speaker problems have plagued them since their release. Meanwhile, the latest Google Home device, the Google Home Mini, was struck down by a touch-interactivity problem that effectively removed one of its more notable features. That's not to say that the Pixel 2 range won't be fixed. Google is actively reviewing the problems and software fixes are said to be on the way. The Google Home line and Google Assistant, thanks to the versatility and contextual intelligence, is holding steady at number 2 in the connected A.I. assistant category.

The problem here is that Google really wants to be a hardware company and is pouring an enormous amount of resources into becoming one and marketing itself as one. So failure could feasibly be a very big problem for the company. That's particularly true since the company has also tried and failed to significantly impact the Android tablet space and to push its own Pixel-branded Chromebooks as compared to competing Chromebooks from other manufacturers. Entries into the wearable space with Google Glass and, more recently, a smart-fabric-enabled jacket, are further failures the company has had to endure. Google's software, on the other hand, is where the company really shines. Whether discussing Chrome OS, Google Assistant, or Android, the company's software has taken the world by storm. Android is the defacto standard for mobile devices, even if it hasn't done so well with consideration for smartwatches or tablets. Google Assistant is putting up a strong fight against Amazon Alexa for the top spot in connected virtual assistants. It also dominates Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana - and, in some areas, Alexa - in terms of performance and usability. Chrome OS is the number one operating system for education in at least two major world markets. Underpinning the issue at hand is that there's no of telling how Google's failures in the hardware space will affect public perception of its software.

Bearing all of that in mind, these failures don't mean Google doesn't have a leg to stand on or more life in it yet. The majority of its money, for starters, comes from advertising and search. Putting aside the problems the company has faced on those particular fronts, it could be said that Google doesn't really need to be in hardware in order to remain relevant. In fairness, this is also only the second attempt the company has made to create a smartphone of its own. The previous Google phones - the Nexus lineup and Android One range - were products Google neither put its name on or played a heavy role in the design of. Those devices also weren't without their own pitfalls but managed to build up a sizeable and loyal following regardless. Pixel could be viewed as a reboot, starting from square one. Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have been selling relatively well, compared to the previous Pixel-branded devices. So, if Google can work out the kinks in its hardware, perhaps with help from its recently purchased assets and engineers from HTC, the company may be able to pull forward. If it can't, its hardware may simply become one of those divisions of the company that fades into the background of public viability and which consistently loses the company money.

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About the Author

Daniel Golightly

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for AndroidHeadlines since 2016. As a Senior Staff Writer for the site, Daniel specializes in reviewing a diverse range of technology products and covering topics related to Chrome OS and Chromebooks. Daniel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering and has a background in Writing and Graphics Design that drives his passion for Android, Google products, the science behind the technology, and the direction it's heading. Contact him at [email protected]
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